Growing Strawberries crop nutrition advice

Everything you need to know about strawberry fertilization, best practice, suitable products, field trials and more

Advice for growing Strawberry (Fragaria ananassa)

  • Strawberries belong to the family Rosaceae, which is commonly referred to as the rose family

  • Best yields are obtained when strawberries are grown on deep, fertile soil, rich in organic matter.

  • Strawberries are very sensitive to poor soil aeration around the roots, to avoid this, strawberries are usually planted on beds.

  • California leads in US strawberry production, benefiting from its mild coastal climate and fertile soils. Florida is significant producer during the winter months, while Oregon, Washington, and Michigan also contribute to US strawberry production substantially.

  • Drip irrigation is the most used method of feeding. Indeed, it allows to precisely dose the amount of water, but it also allows the supply of nutrients thanks to the use of water-soluble fertilizer.

Detail of strawberry
View of industrial strawberry crop

What soil type, pH, and climate do strawberries prefer?

  • Strawberries thrive in well-drained, loamy soils rich in organic matter, favoring sandy loam types.
  • They perform best in temperate climates with mild winters and moderate summers, benefiting from a chilling period to induce flowering.
  • Coastal regions with maritime climates, like parts of California and the Pacific Northwest, are ideal.
  • Strawberries prefer slightly acidic to neutral soil pH levels of 5.5 to 6.5, with adjustments using lime or elemental sulfur as needed for optimal nutrient availability.
  • In soils with a high pH (above 7.5), a deficiency of phosphorus, but also of other micronutrients, may appear.
  • In soils with a low pH (below 5.5), a deficiency of phosphorus, Mo, and Ca may appear.
  • Irrigation is essential for high-yielding strawberry production. The plant’s root system is shallow, with 80–90% in the top 6 inches of clay and 50% in the top 6 inches of well-drained sandy loam soils. Therefore, frequent and short irrigation pulses are necessary to maximize production.

Growing Strawberries in the US

Commercial strawberry growers across the US encounter several unique soil and climate challenges that affect nutrient management:

Soil Variability: Soil types vary widely across different strawberry-growing regions, ranging from sandy soils in coastal areas to heavier soils in inland regions.  Many parts of Florida, for example, have sandy soils with poor water and nutrient retention capabilities. Likewise, many strawberry-growing regions, like across the PNW, Florida, and coastal California, have naturally acidic soils, which can affect nutrient availability, particularly for micronutrients like boron and zinc. Adjusting soil pH can be necessary to optimize nutrient uptake and prevent deficiencies. Addressing soil fertility and moisture management is essential for sustaining healthy strawberry plants and maximizing yield.

Water Management: Balancing water availability with the risk of over-irrigation and nutrient leaching is critical for optimal crop growth. Florida’s sandy soils are prone to rapid water drainage, necessitating efficient irrigation practices to maintain adequate soil moisture levels. While in California, growers face ongoing water scarcity issues exacerbated by drought conditions and competing agricultural demands. Regions with heavy rainfall or excessive irrigation are prone to nutrient leaching, leading to deficiencies and environmental pollution. Implementing efficient irrigation practices and using controlled-release fertilizers, like Agriform Strawberry Mix, can help mitigate nutrient loss through leaching. Including soil surfactants, like H2Flo can also improve water usage.

Seasonal Demands: Strawberry plants have varying nutrient requirements at different growth stages, with peak demand occurring during flowering and fruiting. Adjusting fertilization practices to meet seasonal demands while avoiding excesses is crucial for maximizing yield and fruit quality. Using controlled-release fertilizers, or naturally gradual-release fertilizers, like Polysulphate, can help provide crops with the nutrients they need, when they need them. Likewise, addressing deficiencies or nutrient needs with foliar or fertigation strategies can help efficiently meet plant demand.

Regulatory Compliance: California, for example, has stringent regulations regarding pesticide use, water quality, and food safety, imposing compliance burdens on growers. Likewise, organic strawberry growers face additional challenges in nutrient management. Utilizing organic amendments (like OMRI-approved Polysulphate), cover cropping, and crop rotation strategies to maintain soil fertility and balance nutrient availability is essential for organic certification compliance.

Nutrient Requirements of Strawberries

Balancing nutrients according to the specific needs of the strawberry plants and the soil conditions is essential for maximizing yield, fruit quality, and overall profitability, but several nutrients are particularly important for optimal plant growth, fruit development, and overall yield


Nitrogen: Promotes high yields and ensures vegetative growth of the crop. Plays a key role in the synthesis of proteins, which are directly involved in growth and yield.

Phosphorus: Promotes the development of a good root system. A prerequisite for flowering and the number of and maintenance of fruits. Essential for appropriate energy management in the plant. Enhances cell division.

Potassium: Enhances transport of sugars to the fruits. A cofactor of tens of enzymes. Regulates water management, mainly through stomata aperture. Enhances the sugar content of the fruit. Reduces susceptibility to many kinds of abiotic-, and biotic- stresses. Improves deep fruit color, firm flesh, shape, and overall yields.

Calcium: Promotes cell-wall stability, hence providing the plant a strong structure, and resistance to diseases. Adequate calcium prevents blossom-end rot (BER). It also provides improved shelf life.

Magnesium: Is the central part of the chlorophyll molecule, playing a key role in photosynthesis. Increases Fe utilization. Carrier of phosphorus in the plant. It is both an enzyme activator and a constituent of many enzymes. Helps obtain a deep green fruit color.

Sulphur: A structural component of proteins and peptides. Active in the conversion of inorganic N into protein. A structural component of various enzymes. A catalyst in chlorophyll production.


Iron: Essential for proteins and chlorophyll synthesis. Important factor in many enzymes, associated with energy transfer and respiratory systems.

Manganese: Important roles in photosynthesis: Hill reaction (H2O splitting), electron transport, CO2 assimilation. Formation of riboflavin, ascorbic acid, and carotene.

Boron: Translocation of sugars and carbohydrates. Pollination and seed production. Cell division and cell-wall formation, related to Ca uptake and usage.

Nutrient Deficiencies in Strawberries

NitrogenBoth vegetative growth and fruit production are severely restricted.  Light green to yellow leaves., younger leaves are still quite green from N mobilized from older leaves. 
Dark red & purple & yellow to light-green leaves. Yield is reduced and fruit are pale, short and thick. 
PhosphorousP deficient plants have weak roots, are stunted, and produce small dark, dull, grey-green leaves. 
Leaves become purple-to-brown on their entire blade or on their distal margins (see photos). 
Fruit set is reduced, thus impairing production, Phosphorus deficiency is most common when soil pH is too low (7.0). 
PotassiumThe old leaves are the most sensitive ones, they exhibit marginal burning and a dark discoloration. 
The extension of the petiole into the central leaflet darkens, and the bases of the other leaflets become necrotic too. 
The serrated tips and margins of the older leaves redden and dry up. It gradually advances inwards between the veins until most of the leaf blade is affected.  
CalciumYoungest leaves cup downwards and their edges become scorched. Stunting and necrosis of the youngest leaves and of growing points at top of the plant. Marginal leaf yellowing can also occur at more severe deficiencies.   Mature and older leaves are generally unaffected. Severe deficiency causes flowers abortion, and death of the growing point, runners and petioles may develop darken lesions.   Fruits are smaller and have a hard texture, root growth is also less.  Leaf tip burn and puckering helps to distinguish this disorder from B deficiency which results in distorted and thicker leaves. 
MagnesiumYellowing of older leaves, beginning between the major veins, which retain a narrow green border, in severe situations, a light tan burn develops in the yellow regions. Younger leaves are less affected. Fruits from Mg- deficient plants appear are lighter in color and softer in texture. Yields are reduced. Deficiency is revealed mainly in fields that have received high N or K fertilizer rates. 
IronYellowing appears on younger leaves first and is distinctly interveinal. All other leaves remain dark green. In severe deficiency, the minor veins also fade, and the leaves may eventually burn, especially if exposed to strong sun light. Up until the time the leaves become almost completely white, they will recover upon application of iron. Most often observed when growing in alkaline (pH > 7.0), or calcareous soils, and can be induced also by over-liming, poor drainage, or high concentrations of metallic ions in the soil or nutrient solution.


Phosphorus deficiencies                       


Magnesium  deficiencies                              


Chlorine Sensitivity and Strawberries

Strawberry plants are sensitive to chlorine due to its interference with nutrient uptake, disruption of osmotic balance, and potential toxicity.  In general, strawberry is considered to be one of the most sensitive crops to salinity, and specifically to chloride.

What can high chlorine levels do to strawberries?

High chlorine levels can outcompete essential nutrients, cause water stress, and lead to leaf burn and reduced fruit yield.  Cl-affected leaves show dry and brown leaf margins, brittle leaves, stunted plant growth, and dead roots, and plants.  The maximum permissible chloride level in the soil solution in most cases is 5–7 meq/L, which varies by variety. The maximum permissible chloride in irrigation water is 3–5 meq/L.   Chloride higher than 0.5% in the dry matter of the plant indicates chloride toxicity. 

What can growers do to manage chlorine sensitivity?

Given strawberries’ sensitivity, careful irrigation management and avoiding chlorine-containing water sources are crucial to mitigate its negative effects and ensure optimal plant health and productivity. Ensuring adequate soil drainage to prevent the accumulation of chlorine salts in the root zone can help. Additionally, soil testing and water analysis can help identify potential chlorine issues and guide appropriate management strategies to minimize its impact on strawberry crops.

Fertilization methods

In the US, the most common method of strawberry fertilization is through a combination of soil-applied fertilizers, fertigation, and foliar fertilization as a supplemental nutrient management strategy, especially during critical growth stages or to address specific nutrient deficiencies.

Soil-Applied Fertilizers

Important soil-applied fertilizers include complete fertilizers for balanced nutrition, nitrogen sources for growth, phosphorus sources for root development, potassium sources for fruit quality, and secondary nutrients like calcium and magnesium. Micronutrients are also crucial for various plant functions. Utilizing these fertilizers based on soil tests ensures optimal plant health and fruit production.

Controlled-release fertilizers (CRFs) for strawberry fields 

The use of CRFs for strawberry crops is expanding rapidly, as a result of the need to save on workload and increase field productivity. In the US, for example, the usage of N-P-K CRFs has caught quickly and is now practiced over 55% of the 26,000 country-wide hectares, concentrated mainly in California. 

Normally, one pre-plant application of well-designed CRF granules, like Agroblen or Agriform Strawberry Mix, can supply the majority share of the crop’s mineral requirements, achieving high yields of ~ 60 MT/ha of high-quality produce for fresh consumption. Application of additional WSF by fertigation is also common. 

These fertilizers are typically applied before planting or during early growth stages, based on soil tests, to ensure optimal plant health and fruit production.


As drip irrigation is so common with this crop, fertilization is generally done by fertigation, using fully-soluble fertilizers, adapting the N-P-K-Ca-Mg ratios according to the crop’s needs at every growth stage. Once the strawberry plants are established, fertigation becomes a primary method of nutrient application. Fertigation involves applying water-soluble fertilizers through the irrigation system, delivering nutrients directly to the root zone. This method allows for precise nutrient management and efficient plant uptake, contributing to optimal growth and fruit production.

In soil the needs of the Strawberry must be covered by  : 

  1. Elements naturally present in irrigation water
  2. Elements already present in the soil
  3. Additional fertilizer inputs to the soil
  4. Additional Fertilizer intake by drip

Strawberry needs = Soil input ( stock or mineralization for example) + Water elements + Fertilizers put on the soil + supplements during cultivation ( soluble fertilizers)

Foliar feeding  

Some growers may also utilize foliar fertilization as a supplemental nutrient management approach. Foliar feeding boosts plant development, strengthening the plants against abiotic factors (e.g., drought, heat, cold soils) and biotic factors (e.g., nematodes, pests, and diseases) and correcting mineral deficiencies. Tank-mixing fertilizers with crop-protection products is a common foliar practice in fertilizing strawberries. Foliar application involves spraying liquid fertilizers directly onto the leaves, providing a quick nutrient boost during critical growth stages or addressing specific nutrient needs.

The Bottom Line

Effective fertilization practices are essential for maximizing yield and quality in commercial strawberry farming. By combining soil-applied fertilizers, fertigation, and supplemental strategies like foliar fertilization, growers can ensure that their strawberry crops receive the nutrients they need for healthy growth and abundant harvests. Ultimately, the choice of fertilization method and specific fertilizers used vary depending on factors such as soil conditions, climate, crop stage, and grower preferences.


Here are some frequently asked questions we received from farmers regarding strawberries.

  • Generally, the first applications of water soluble fertilizer after planting takes place 15 days after planting. 

  • No, you cannot mix calcium nitrate with a phosphorus product in the same tank without acidification to maintain compatibility. This can be achieved by using ICL’s Nova PeKacid or Agrolution pHLow product line to supply P while also maintaining a low solution pH. 

Need expert advice on your plant nutrition plan?

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